Video hasn’t killed the radio star for Styx. It’s only enhanced it, as far as the band members are concerned.
The upcoming Live At The Orleans Arena Las Vegas DVD — coming out Sept. 2 with an exclusive live premiere of “Light Up” below — is the latest in a series of concert videos Styx has released since its last album of new material, Cyclorama, came out in 2003. The steady stream includes One With Everything with the Cleveland Contemporary Youth Orchestra in 2006 and the The Grand Illusion, Pieces Of Eight Live full-album show in 2012. Live At The Orleans Arena documents a more traditional Styx show and suits the group better than a new studio album right now.
“Look, we know what people want from us, and it’s ‘Come Sail Away’ and ‘Lady’ and ‘Light Up’ and ‘Too Much Time On My Hands’ and…the hits,” co-founder and guitarist James “J.Y.” Young tells Billboard. “We’re doing great on the road now, better than ever, and we’re getting a lot of young people too, which is really gratifying. So why put in all that time and money into making something (new) that people may or may not by when we can put out something we know they want and they’ll really like.”
Fellow guitarist Tommy Shaw, meanwhile, likes the idea that the videos help keep Styx visible — literally — in an altered music environment. “Since radio has changed so much, this is something that’s a little harder to lose control of,” Shaw explains. “It’s more of our doing than something that’s just out there streaming, and you don’t know where it’s playing, if it’s playing, are you getting compensated for it. We shoot it. We edit it. We put it out and we know how many are sold. It really feels like ours.” The Las Vegas show was filmed during July of 2014, and for now the video, which includes bonus band and crew member interviews, is the most recent document of Styx in concert. “We haven’t shot one since then,” Shaw says. “I don’t think we’ve held any back, either. But I’m sure we’ll do more when we feel the time’s right.”
“Light Up,” of course, has been a Styx fan favorite since its release on 1975’s Equinox, shortly before Shaw joined the band. “It’s a great piece, and it’s very powerful live,” Young notes, although Styx stopped playing the song for a time in its sets. After Colorado legalized marijuana, however, the group decided it might be appropriate to start playing it again.
“We keep looking for tracks we can resurrect that are good to play live,” Young says. “It’s a song of celebration and it is a fun song people can participate in. And the visuals we created to go with it and the lights and everything were right there, and people really responded to it.”
Styx has been on the road mostly with its own headlining dates this summer, though next year the group plans to be out with another package that Shaw says will be “familiar” to previous summer tours the group has done. Meanwhile there are rumblings about an actual new Styx album, though, “We’re sort of noodling around with some ideas,” Young reports. “Tommy heard some riff I played the other day, and he said, ‘That sounds like something.’ Touring has been the complete focus of this band since ’99, but there needs to be a new record from us at some point. I just don’t know when, but I think that’s less than five years away.”
Shaw agrees that “we’re always messing around with new ideas, so I wouldn’t rule that out.” But in addition to marketplace concerns — “Radio won’t play anything new and nobody buys albums anymore,” Young says — there are logistical challenges, particularly with the band members living around the country.
“It’s really hard to buckle down and do something like that with our touring schedule,” Shaw says. “We play so much and you have to have a balance. You have to have time when you’re not on the road and you’re not working on Styx just to keep yourself sane and have a happy, balanced life. I wouldn’t rule (new music) out. We haven’t closed the door on that. But we haven’t really set aside time to finish anything, either.”